Open Case Virginia: Parents share memories as police put new focus on murder investigation

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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Monday is the anniversary of a murder in our region that remains unsolved.

David Metzler and Heidi Childs, courtesy Donald Childs

David Metzler and Heidi Childs were found shot to death near the Caldwell Fields area of Montgomery County August 26, 2009. Metzler, 19, and Heidi, 18, were attending Virginia Tech at the time.

We know how their story ended along that winding road in the Jefferson National Forest, but Childs and Metzler's parents say there's much more to understand about their children.

Don and Laura Childs remember their daughter by her nickname, "Smiley." From the day she was born, the Childs say Heidi was defined by the ever-present grin on her face.

"When she was just a newborn, people would see her in a shopping cart and they would say 'smiley!'" Laura Childs explained. "It just became so funny. Everywhere we would go, people would call her Smiley."

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The fourth of eight children, Heidi's parents say she adored her siblings. They were home schooled together by their mother.

"Before I could get up in the morning and have a cup of coffee, she would be like 'okay mom, what are we going to do today?'" Laura Childs remembered.

Enthusiastic as she was about school, Childs' parents say her true passion rested in her faith.

"She became a Christian at a very early age, very young," said Don Childs.

Her life was centered around the church. When her family moved to Lynchburg when Heidi was a teenager, their congregation plugged her in to new friendships.

"I think she really enjoyed being with a like-minded group of people," Don Childs said.

People like David Metzler.

"They shared a love for music and playing the guitar, and they shared a common faith," said David's mother, Susan Metzler.

Like Heidi, David was a devout Christian.

"At an early age, David trusted in Christ as his savior," Susan Metzler said.

David was Susan and Keith Metzler's only son. He grew up with three older sisters.

"I think he felt like he had four mothers," Susan Metzler said with a laugh.

The Metzlers say David was a math and science guy, always looking for the most efficient way to do things.

"He was quiet and unassuming," said Keith Metzler.

"Steady," Susan Metzler added.

David was a talented athlete, excelling in basketball, soccer, and outdoor sports.

"We used to hunt together a lot," recalled Keith Metzler. "We had some really good times hunting."

He also excelled at golf, but the Metzlers say his love of that sport taught him a powerful lesson.

"He realized, I think it was in his senior year, that he was out of balance in his love for that sport and that hobby, and the Lord really convicted him of that," Susan Metzler said.

David started devoting even more of his time to the youth ministry at Heritage Baptist Church. Heidi was active there, too, and as their faith grew deeper, so did their fondness for one another.

"I can remember asking David, what do you like about Heidi?" Susan Metzler recalled. "He just loved that she was always happy. She never complained. She never said ill things about people."

"They really enjoyed spending time together," said Laura Childs. "They weren't really dating."

Throughout high school David and Heidi sang and performed together as part of a praise and worship team. As graduation approached, the pair gravitated toward the same college: Virginia Tech.

It was 2008, one year after a mass shooting at the school claimed 32 lives. Heidi's mom had concerns.

"I was a little nervous about her going and I remember her saying to me 'mom, it doesn't matter where you are. If it's your time to go, God is going to take you regardless.' It's really hard to think back on that," said Laura Childs, choking back tears.

Heidi and David entered Virginia Tech that fall, growing closer as friends but still not a couple.

"We just encouraged them not to go there as an entity," said Keith Metzler. "They did that"

Their time in Blacksburg helped them realize being together was what they wanted. Heidi's dad remembers David asking permission to formally date his daughter.

"I remember the night," Don Childs said. "He was so nervous. He came to the door and I was kidding with Heidi. I said I am going to give him a hard time. She said 'no, dad, don't!'"

The two became inseparable. They even worked together during their summer break.

When they returned to campus in August, important changes were afoot. Heidi, a longtime lover of science, decided to go pre-med. She called her mom to share the news.

"She was talking so fast that I could barely understand what she was saying," Laura Childs said. "I finally said 'honey, you need to slow down. I want to hear what you have to say.' She was so excited."

It was the last conversation the Childs ever had with their daughter. That night, she and David traveled to Caldwell Fields, an isolated spot about 20 minutes from campus.

Heidi's parents say they think the couple went there to talk about Heidi's plan to go pre-med and how that might impact their relationship.

"They wanted to sit down together," said Don Childs. "They had their guitars and they were going to sing, talk, play music, and try to talk it out. That never happened."

Sometime around sunset, as the couple sat parked at Caldwell Fields, investigators say David and Heidi were shot and killed. To this day their case remains unsolved.

"We have no doubt that David and Heidi are in heaven, not because they were great people, but because they trusted in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus," said Keith Metzler.

Both the Metzlers and the Childs say their faith has helped them navigate their darkest moments.

"Any time that I begin to start thinking about the actual situation, it's such a blessing to be able to say. She's not there anymore, she's in heaven, and to be able to know that's where she is," Laura Childs said.

The Metzlers say their faith has also guided them to a place of forgiveness, for the unknown person who killed their son.

"God has forgiven my incredible load of sin," said Keith Metzler. "We would love to share how they can be forgiven, and to extend our forgiveness to him as well."

A day they wait for prayerfully.

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